PM Modi to welcome first international flight from Colombo at Kushinagar airport


Colombo/New Delhi, Oct 19 (UNI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to welcome the first international flight from Colombo at Kushinagar airport in Uttar Pradesh tomorrow, that will have on board a delegation led by Sri Lankan Minister Namal Rajapaksa.

Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate the International Airport in Kushinagar on Wednesday.

Modi had announced during the Virtual Bilateral Summit with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 26 last year that the first international flight to Kushinagar will be for a group of Sri Lankan pilgrims.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo confirmed today that the delegation from Sri Lanka on the inaugural flight will be led by Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth and Sports, Colombo Gazette reported.

The 125-member delegation will comprise of four State Ministers and one MP in addition to around 100 senior Buddhist monks, belonging to different sects and prominent temples, spread across Sri Lanka. Senior officials from Sri Lanka will also be part of the delegation.

Kushinagar is considered to be a focal point of the Buddhist Circuit in India and the new international airport is likely to strengthen people-to-people interactions between India and Sri Lanka substantially.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Kushinagar International Airport and will also lay the foundation stone of a medical college. According to Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and State Minister D.V. Chanaka will also be part of the delegation.

The inaugural flight not only underscores the deep people-to-people linkages but also the millennia old civilizational ties between the two neighbouring countries. Buddhism is central to the abiding cultural, spiritual and linguistic bonds in this bilateral relationship.

The Sri Lankan delegation will also visit Varanasi during their stay in India. Special prayers shall be held at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple for the delegation tomorrow. They will also have a Ganga Darshan before they return to Colombo on the afternoon of October 21.

Adding to the significance of the occasion, the sacred Kapilavastu Buddha relics from the Rajaguru Sri Subhuthi Maha Vihara of Waskaduwa will also travel on the inaugural flight on Vap Poya Day. The sacred relics are being ceremonially brought on board the first international flight to Kushinagar by Most Ven. Waskaduwe Mahindawamsa Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Rajaguru Sri Subhuthi Maha Vihara who is the present custodian of the relics.

The sacred relics will be received with due reverence at the new international airport in Kushinagar on arrival and will be accorded full State honours by the Government of India. Exposition of the relics will be held in several Indian cities including Kushinagar and Sarnath.

The sacred Piprahwa relics which are the only documented authentic relics of The Buddha in Sri Lanka were discovered in the late 19th century in India and form a part of the Kapilavastu relics. They were brought to Sri Lanka and are currently kept at the Waskaduwa Viharaya in Kalutara. Prime Minister Modi made a special mention about this temple in his virtual address delivered on Buddha Purnima in May 2020.

The relics travelled to India in October 2015 as well. It may also be recalled that the venerated Kapilavastu relics in India, which have been taken out of India only 6 times in the past, were sent to Sri Lanka in 1978 and in 2012.

According to the Lanka Mirror, the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi said two historical photographs would be presented on the occasion to the Indian people by the Sri Lankan people with the blessings of the Sri Lankan Maha Sangha. The High Commission has taken steps to install these photographs on a proposal by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Milinda Moragoda.

These photographs feature two murals painted by the eminent Sri Lankan painter Solias Mendis (1897-1975) in the Kelaniya Rajamaha Vihara, which is the Buddhist Temple believed to be the venue of the third visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka.

The first mural depicts Arahat Bhikkhu Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka delivering the message of the Buddha to King Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka upon arriving on the island.

The second mural depicts the arrival to Sri Lanka of There Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta, the daughter of the emperor, bearing the right-hand branch sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree under which Gotama Siddhartha attained enlightenment. The sapling which was planted in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura of Sri Lanka in 249 BCE, has survived for over two millennia. The tree bears the distinction of being the oldest historically recorded living tree in the world and is revered by Buddhists worldwide.

These two historical events that occurred in the 3rd century BCE marked the commencement of Buddhist civilization in Sri Lanka and epitomize the strong and unbreakable civilizational bonds that exist between Sri Lanka and India, it said.